Irrespective of how hard sports channels try to develop other properties to yield numbers, cricket is the name of the game at present for the Indian audience. The magic of the property is evident further with Zee Sports taking the leadership spot in the genre in the final three weeks of 2005 – courtesy the India-Sri Lanka Test series. DD Sports had witnessed a similar fate with the other India matches keeping the channel a leader for six continual weeks in November and December.
TAM Media Research numbers show that if an average of the last quarter is seen, DD Sports is way ahead as a leader in the genre with Ten Sports following. Much of the success for the channel comes in the form of the Videocon Cup and Pepsi Cup – each seeing the Indian team compete with nations like Sri Lanka and South Africa. Interestingly, the performance of the last three weeks for Zee Sports has boosted the channel enough to offer better average numbers than ESPN and STAR Sports.
October mostly saw the channels stay under the 1 per cent share mark. However, come November, DD Sports’ share soared as high as 7 per cent. DD Sports hasn’t eaten into any other sports channel much in the period – ensuring an overall growth in the genre in the November and early December period. In the final week, an unexpected course of action took place when Zee Sports bagged the telecast rights of the India-Lanka Test series.
Given that Test cricket has lower yield than one day internationals (ODI), Zee Sport’s 2 plus and 3 per cent share, too, has made a significant impact. Media experts state that cricket isn’t a property anyone can afford to ignore for a long time. Said Manish Porwal, Executive Director, Starcom (West), “In India, cricket is religion and everything else is sects. The sport will have its ups and downs and is completely dependent on various factors like the performance of the Indian team and so on.”
Nandini Dias, Vice-President, Lodestar Media, who along with Porwal, is one of the experts who had said in October 2005 itself that the cricketing series that was lined up in the last quarter of the year was set to see some high numbers, felt, “You can gauge how big cricket can get from the noise that the forthcoming India-Pakistan series is making. The enthusiasm in terms of coverage has already increased and you know this is one series from which we can expect good numbers.”
A factor to note here is that despite no cricket, Ten Sports has managed to maintain a decent graph in the genre, which gets beaten only by DD Sports and Zee Sports in their cricket weeks. ESPN and STAR Sports have maintained a very low decibel – ESPN getting a few spikes when it has non-India cricket, but this hasn’t given it the leadership status even for a week in these months.
Commenting on Ten Sports, Dias said, “They have managed to develop other properties like WWF, which is delivering very well for them. It gets them the numbers and even though people don’t speak about it much, the channel is doing a good job of silently reaping this property.”
The experts do believe that other properties might take their time, but they are on the verge of being better developed in the country. “I see the sports genre on the whole growing and each new sport bringing its own audience. In India in any case, the genre has not been developed fully and there is much more that can be done,” said Porwal.
“I think other properties are already making a difference, football, tennis and hockey are getting sponsorships and we have examples like Sania Mirza, who are just about everywhere,” added Dias.
On the whole, the last quarter of the year has spelt good news for the genre and very good news for channels like DD Sports and Ten Sports – the start for 2006 is already on the right foot.